Monday, 4 May 2020

Discovering Scarfolk Giveaway

Whatever You Do, Don't

Scarfolk is a unitary authority somewhere in the north of England, stuck forever in the 1970s with all the public information norms that go with it. Whether it's warning households about the imminent arrival of the Council Christmas Boy, or reminding children that not all hypnotising arachnoid demons are friendly, Scarfolk Council has a poster for it.

This fits perfectly with the dystopian world in miniature I've been building up over the last few years, so I've been busy scaling down Scarfolk literature and ephemera. Here is the fridge in my Sindy house at the moment:

Sindy House

There are currently two Scarfolk books developed from Richard Littler's blog - The Scarfolk Annual 197X and Discovering Scarfolk. I have a copy of the latter to give away so, if you fancy discovering Scarfolk for yourself, fill out the Gleam widget below for up to five entries. :)

Discovering Scarfolk Giveaway

Discovering Scarfolk Book

Wednesday, 29 April 2020

Gender Recognition Act

It's hard to keep up with anything but coronavirus news at the moment, but I had Liz Truss' statement on potential reforms to the Gender Recognition Act flagged up to me on Twitter and, just, ugh. I do not know where this idea that getting a Gender Recognition Certificate and full reassignment surgery is something that happens one day on a whim comes from. It is an extremely long and complicated process, with endless layers of red tape - not to mention discrimination - in your way.

Anyway, here is the email I sent off to my own local representatives in the hope of raising awareness and maybe even getting some clarity... 


I was really concerned to see the statement from Liz Truss about the proposed reform of the Gender Recognition Act - rather than simplifying the process of getting a Gender Recognition Certificate, which was what campaigners have been calling for, the govt are suggesting putting more steps in and potentially denying treatment to under 18s. My big worry around this is the mental health impact; it is not a simple or short process as it is, and suicide rates within the community are horrific. (Eg. Stonewall found 1 in 4 young trans people have attempted suicide.)

Wait times and the burden of proof are both very high, so most people won't start receiving treatment until their late teens. If there is early intervention the legislation already prevents under-16s from being offered more than reversible puberty blockers, and 17/18 year olds aren't eligible for surgical treatment. I would argue, personally, that 17/18 year olds should have the right to make their own decisions on surgery, in line with other irreversible procedures from abortion through to cosmetic surgery, but at the very least this right should not be eroded further.

The statement was also big on preserving same sex spaces but without spelling out what that means - on the one hand it could be a positive move to be inclusive and allow self-determination. Or, more likely, it will look to exclude anyone without a GRC certificate which, combined with extra steps to get one, could put individuals at real risk. You would expect an individual to be living full time as another gender before they get a GRC, so explicitly excluding them from services would be a dangerous move. 

Obviously this is a busy and stressful time for everyone, but I worry that announcements like this might slip through the net during the crisis. I would really appreciate any clarity you can get on this going forward, and any support you can give to improving gender recognition services in the UK. 

Thank you,

Please find the full text of the form letter circulating on this which has lots more detail and references:

I am writing to you to express my concerns about the statement that Liz Truss MP, the Minister for Women and Equalities, recently made regarding the Government’s intentions towards the rights of trans people in the UK.

While introduced as being ‘on the issue of the Gender Recognition Act’, I would first like to clarify that the issues raised by Ms Truss in her statement to the Women and Equalities Committee on the 22nd of April[1] are largely unrelated to the Gender Recognition Act 2004 (GRA). In particular it is erroneous and dangerous to suggest that the protection of single sex spaces has anything at all to do with the GRA.

Gender Recognition Act reform
The GRA describes and enshrines a process for applying for alterations to a birth certificate, which requires the applicant acquire a Gender Recognition Certificate. This process is frequently arduous, humiliating, expensive and unsuccessful, and requires that the applicant share significant quantities of personal and medical information and fulfill certain strict criteria[2]. The Government’s consultation on reform of the GRA made it clear that it does not intend to alter the current legal protections in place which allow trans people to access services appropriate for their gender, which are enshrined in law under the Equality Act 2010, nor seek to add or maintain burdensome ‘check and balances’, as suggested by Ms Truss. In fact, the consultation documents themselves stated that the aim of reform is to “make it easier for trans people to achieve legal recognition”[3].

Single sex spaces
Ms Truss stated that “the protection of single sex spaces is extremely important". (I would note here that any debate into the issue of what constitutes sex and what constitutes gender is irrelevant when the two are constantly socially and legally conflated[4].) I agree with Ms Truss that single sex spaces, and their protection, are very important. However, banning trans people from such spaces or insisting that they use ones designed for their sex assigned at birth is legally and socially regressive, and preventing trans people from being able to use gender specific services effectively bars them from accessing them at all. It is also unclear how this could reasonably be policed, and is likely to result in individuals taking it upon themselves to discriminate and withhold access based on their opinion of “what a woman should look like” or “what a man should look like”, often at times when individuals need supportive services the most.

Trans people, particularly trans women and girls, and trans and non-binary people of colour, are at elevated risk for needing sexual health services, rape crisis services, domestic violence shelters and homelessness shelters[5],[6]. Forcing trans people to use services inappropriate for their gender in the very best instance will ensure that they do not get the help they need, and in the worst instance, open them up to violent assault. Trans women have been accessing women’s services across the country for decades, and many women’s services have themselves spoken out against transphobic discrimination[7], in favour of reform of the GRA ‘furthering the dignity of trans people’, and against amendments to the Equality Act[8].

[We recommend you add in any examples you may have of needing or providing these services, or any personal objections to the exclusion of trans people from single-sex spaces here.]

Ms Truss went on to suggest that she wishes to make sure “...transgender adults are free to live their lives as they wish without fear of persecution, whilst maintaining the proper checks and balances in the system.[9]” I of course welcome any move by the government to support trans people to live free of fear of (or actual) persecution, and would encourage you to support all genuine moves to achieve this, including those in the Government LGBT Action Plan[10], and through the protection of the rights afforded by the Equality Act. I am concerned, however, by the idea that trans people may need to be subject to specific ‘checks and balances’ while accessing their human rights.

Treatment of trans children and young people
Finally, I wish to address Ms Truss’s statement in relation to trans children and young people. Ms Truss wishes to see that they “are protected from decisions that they could make, that are irreversible in the future.”

Currently, under-16s can only access puberty blockers, the effects of which are reversible[11]. Cross-sex hormones are accessible to over 16s after 12 months on blockers, and surgeries only to over 18s. In reality, due to very long waiting times and the process of assessment that young people have to undergo, most young people are unlikely to receive medical intervention before their late teens. To assert otherwise displays a worrying ignorance of the facts of what is currently lawful in the UK. To disallow treatment for trans young people in any way has very concerning consequences for all young people’s rights to bodily autonomy (currently determined according to the Gillick competence principle, and the Fraser guidelines), and potentially their confidential access to contraception, abortion services, and mental health services. I ask that you act to block any attacks on Gillick competency and the Fraser guidelines by any route.

If Ms Truss, or you yourself, wish to prevent trans young people undergoing irreversible changes which they may regret, the best course of action would be to improve access to blockers, alongside more, and better informed, mental health support (including from CAMHS). This will support young people to make informed decisions and will have the additional benefit of reducing the pressure on adult gender identity services, mainstream physical health services, and mental health services as these young people grow into happier and healthier adults[12], whatever their decisions about how to express their gender.

The UK as a leader on trans rights
In a time particularly hostile to trans people both domestically and abroad (Hungary is about to reverse legal recognition for trans people at all[13], for example), the UK must seriously consider how it stands by the rights of trans people everywhere to live authentically, free from prejudice and harm. The most recent Stonewall Trans Report (2018)[14] found that two in five trans people experienced a hate crime or incident in the year preceding, and personal testimony has seen this becoming more acute, tethered to malicious media misrepresentation. If we wish to, as a country, be a world leader in how we protect the rights (and living environment) for our trans citizens, then we must move forward, and not seek to remove, directly or indirectly, the rights of trans people.

I ask that you write to the Women and Equalities Minister and ask her to:
  • Commit to reform of the Gender Recognition Act (2004) only if it ensures full legal recognition on the basis of self-determination, streamlining the process and removing the requirement for medical diagnosis
  • Explain what checks and balances she feels are necessary when it comes to ensuring that trans people are free to live their lives without persecution
  • Reaffirm the government’s commitment[15] that they are not proposing to amend the Equality Act 2010 and the protections contained within it
  • Clarify that the Government does not intend to remove the rights that under 18s, including trans children and young people, currently have to access healthcare, including Gillick competency and the Fraser guidelines.

I ask that you write to the secretary of State for Justice and ask them to:
  • Explain how they will police any law which prevents trans people from accessing single sex spaces in line with their identity
  • Describe the likely cost of this.

I ask that you write to Caroline Nokes MP, chair of the Women and Equalities Committee, and ask her to direct the Committee to:
  • Hold the government to account on their response to the 2015 Transgender Equality Inquiry[16] and seek an update to the LGBT Action Plan[17].

Yours sincerely,
[YOUR ADDRESS - Make sure to include this so that your MP knows you are one of their constituents]

[1] Minister for Women and Equalities Liz Truss sets out priorities to Women and Equalities Select Committee (hansard not yet available)
[4] Whittle, Stephen and Turner, Lewis (2007).
'''Sex Changes'? Paradigm Shifts in 'Sex' and 'Gender' Following the Gender Recognition Act?''. Sociological Research Online 12(1) 
[8] Women’s Aid responds to the launch of the government’s consultation, ‘Reform of the Gender Recognition Act 2004’
[9]  Minister for Women and Equalities Liz Truss sets out priorities to Women and Equalities Select Committee (hansard not yet available)
[12] Mental health of transgender children who are supported in their identities 

Saturday, 25 April 2020

World Penguin Day

Celebrate World Penguin Day every April 25th

It's Penguin Day! Here are ten penguin-tastic properties you could enjoy while celebrating...

Happy Feet

Happy Feet

This cute 2006 movie follows tap dancing penguin Mumble (Elijah Wood) who has to be banished from home to find somewhere he truly belongs. Voice acting credits for the film and its inevitable sequel boast the likes of Robin Williams, Hugh Jackman, Nicole Kidman, Brad Pitt, and Matt Damon - but that still wasn't enough to stop Happy Feet Two becoming a box office bomb.

Adventures of Scamper the Penguin

The Adventures of Scamper the Penguin

The Adventures of Lolo the Penguin, to give the film its proper title, was a co-production between Japan and the Soviet Union, completed in 1986. Lolo (Scamper) and his best friend Pépé get lost and have to find their way back home, with the help of the usual menagerie of animal characters, only to find that poachers have captured all the baby penguins to sell to zoos. Lolo and friends save the day - with the number of fatalities accrued along the way depending on whether you're watching the original version or the edited English language dub.

Avenger Penguins

Avenger Penguins

Cosgrave Hall Films - the studio behind the likes of Danger Mouse and Count Duckula - produced 26 episodes of these biker penguins for CITV between 1993 and 1994.



Pingu - a cute if mischievous penguin with a little sister named Pinga - was created by Otmar Gutmann for Swiss TV way back in 1986. 104 episodes were made before production moved to the UK with the backing of the BBC in 2003. Another 52 episodes followed but Pingu didn't have to rely solely on repeats for long: Japan took up the baton with new series Pingu in the City in 2017.

Chilly Willy

Chilly Willy

Part of the Lantz studio line-up, Chilly - a penguin who doesn't like the cold - soon became their second most popular character, just behind Woody Woodpecker. He appeared in over 50 cartoons between 1953 and 1972, and remains a supporting character in updated Lantz/Universal offerings like The New Woody Woodpecker Show. Pictured above is his very own Funko Pop.

It's the halfway point and the perfect time for a little Sanrio interlude. Alongside more famous stablemate Hello Kitty, there are two adorable penguin characters: the ever grumpy Badtz-Maru (debuted 1993) and my all time favourite, Tuxedo Sam (debuted 1979), who is known for his great fashion sense and his collection of 365 bow ties. :)

Sanrio Tuxedo Sam and Badtz Maru

The Pebble and the Penguin

The Pebble and the Penguin

Hubie is a nice guy who seems doomed to lose his lady love, Marina, to bad guy Drake. But will he be able to win her over with his very special pebble? Major problems between MGM and Sullivan Bluth Studios lead to this being a box office disaster in 1995. And, yeah, if you shelled out to see this at the cinema you'd probably be disappointed. As background fare for the kids on a quiet afternoon however, it can hold its own just fine.

The Wrong Trousers

Feathers McGraw

Having the reputation of being cute and cuddly, it's rare to see penguins cast as the baddies of the piece. Feathers McGraw proves that to be an oversight in 1993's Wallace and Gromit offering 'The Wrong Trousers'. It's won piles of awards, including an oscar, so if you haven't seen it already you're in for a real treat!

Pororo The Little Penguin


Pororo the Little Penguin is a Korean pre-school show that won over audiences around the world. As of 2019 there are over 50 episodes, plus metric tons of merchandise. In 2014 Pororo was chosen as the transport mascot for Seoul and in summer 2016 he even had his own mini theme park open at Seoul COEX Mall.

Penguins - being cute and easily recognisable - also feature in such other inoffensive preschool fare as 3-2-1 Penguins!, The Paz ShowPecola, and The Octonauts.

Tennessee Tuxedo and His Tales

Produced by Total Television for CBS between 1963 and 1966, the character made a comeback for a series of Youtube shorts in 2014. Tennessee Tuxedo and his friend Chumley the Walrus get into all manner of scrapes and escapades, all while learning how lights work or what space is, to prove to Newton N. Minnow, former Chair of the Federal Communications Commission, that television was not an educational 'wasteland'.

Penguins of Madagascar

Penguins of Madagascar

I totally saved the best 'til last! Skipper, Rico, Kowalski and Private were the real stars of the original Madagascar movie, and they soon had their own spin-off TV series, film, and a generally enlarged role in the rest of the Madagascar franchise. Deservedly so, too!

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Editorial Calendar Ideas

Friday, 24 April 2020

Friday Five: Public Information Campaigns

Friday Five

I've always had a soft spot for public information films - they appeal to me as both a useful means of disseminating important information, and the ease with which they can be spoofed. Plus there's the fact that so many of them are absolutely terrifying.

Nothing says success like ensuring entire generations have nightmares...

#5. Green Cross Code

There have been so many different iterations of the green cross code campaign, from Batman teaching London kids kerb drill in the 1940s right through to the 'staying alive' hedgehogs of my own childhood. My favourite, however, has to be 1983's Close To The Edge which uses Grandmaster Flash's The Message to teach us that Johnny was a fool who didn't act cool. He walked on out, he broke every rule. He should have checked it out, he should have used his head - if he don't watch out he's gonna wind up dead!

#4. THINK!

The mark of a good public information campaign is that those who see it absorb the information and act upon it. The 'it's 30 for a reason' ad first aired in 2006 but I still know that if you hit her at 40 mph there's an 80% chance she'll die - and I don't even drive.

#3. Lonely Water

1973's The Spirit of Dark and Lonely Water is a masterpiece of the genre. Not only did the children who saw it never want to go swimming in lonely water, they would have preferred to stay well away from water, full stop.

#2. Protect and Survive

The Cold War was all but over by the time I was born and I was lucky enough to never experience the Protect and Survive campaign firsthand. That hardly diluted the powerful effect it had on me. Patrick Allen's voice still sends shivers down my spine, and Threads will forever top my scariest horror films list.

#1. Scarfolk Council

Scarfolk Council - the local authority I've always imagined to cover 'local place for local people' Royston Vasey - is the brainchild of writer and designer Richard Littler. Forever locked in the 1970s, Scarfolk uses the public information campaign to instil the fear of God into its residents... and the rest of us!

Sarfolk Council - Positive Outlook

Do you have a favourite public information film / campaign? Let me know in the comments! :)

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Friday Five

Wednesday, 22 April 2020

Checking It Twice...

Westminster held its first (partly) digital PMQs today, but the Welsh Assembly was way ahead of them with their first remote meeting held on April 1st. To this point the only hitches had been technical - AMs, like the rest of us, getting to grips with the video links. Then this afternoon health minister Vaughan Gething broke the cardinal rule of the virtual meeting:

Always check your mic is off before you start badmouthing your colleagues.

For those unable to view: Cardiff Central AM Jenny Rathbone [Lab] asks the Health Minister a question about PPE. Vaughan Gething [Cardiff South and Penarth, Lab] answers, finishes, and the chair Elin Jones [Ceredigion, Plaid] tells him to switch his mic off. It's too late - Gething's muted the sound instead of the mic and can be heard talking to somebody in the room with him. Most of it is indistinguishable and overlaid by the sound of the chair repeatedly telling him to switch his mic off... at least it is indistinguishable until you can clearly pick out Gething saying of Rathbone 'what the f*** is wrong with her!?' Cue giffable reactions of other AMs on screen. A recess is duly called to sort things out.

Naturally responses range from ROFL through to calls for Gething's resignation. Personally I think the latter's a bit OTT; if he had deliberately ranted back at Rathbone then fair enough, but the comments were obviously never meant to be public. (And, yeah, you can argue that he shouldn't react like that to a colleague at all but, seriously, if you have never felt moved to profanity by a work colleague you are a much luckier person than I.)

A lot of the comments about it are saying it is a perfect example of his attitude to scrutiny. Maybe. But, in this instance, I'd imagine the frustration comes more from Rathbone - who is no stranger to unacceptable remarks - as a fellow Labour AM choosing to be publicly critical of the government instead of dealing with it in house. You'd normally expect to hash out this kind of stuff personally or as a political group, rather than give the press a story about major dissent within the ranks on the day's biggest issue.

Either way, I think if something like this happened when I was in chair I'd issue a general reminder about conduct, ask the member to apologise to the individual / body as a whole, and leave further sanction up to their political group in the short term and the Standards Committee, if need be, in the longer term.

In more serious news the Welsh testing target of 5,000 per day has been dropped without a replacement. I respect the First Minister for apologising and admitting that government doesn't have the capacity, but I still want to see full transparency on what they're doing to get those figures up. Adam Price has been asking why Wales isn't getting its own mega lab either - I mean, I get that there's a shortage of reagents, but when we get hold of them we'll still benefit from the concentration of staff and equipment.

PPE is a major worry too. Wales is almost out of fluid resistant masks and gowns and, though official sources say there is no PPE shortage in Welsh hospitals, you kind of wonder why if that's the case the public are frantically sewing scrubs and masks, 3D printing face visor bands, and donating any gear which looks like it might pass muster...

Monday, 20 April 2020

Angel's Friends

Angel's Friends

Angel's Friends began life as an Italian comic by Simona Ferri. A cartoon followed in 2009, along with a TV film 'Angel's Friends – Tra Sogno e Realtà' (Angel's Friends: Between Dream and Reality)' which premiered in April 2011.

Giochi Preziosi released a range of tie-in dolls.

Forever Together Dolls for Angel's Friends

Angels Forever Together

★ Urie - box front / box back.
★ Raf - box front / box back.
★ Dolce - box front / box back.

Devils Stranger Than Ever

★ Sulfus - box front / box back.
★ Kabale - box front / box back.

Angel's Friends Dolls with Luggage

Angie Town

★ Dolce - box front / box back.
★ Urie - box front / box back.
★ Raf - box front / box back.

Angel's Friends Power Wings Dolls

Power Wings

★ Rafbox front / box back.
★ Dolce - box front / box back.
★ Urie - box front / box back.

Fashion Angel

★ Dolce - box front / box back.
★ Raf - box front / box back.
★ Urie - box front / box back.

Forever Together

★ Raf - box front / box back.

Angel's Friends Doll Bedroom Playset

Dreaming Room Playset

★ Playset with Raf Doll - box front / contents / box back.

Angel's Friends Mini DollsAngel's Friends Mini Dolls with Wings

Mini Dolls (16cm)

★ Raf - box front / box back.
★ Urie - box front / box back.
★ Dolce - box front / box back.
★ Dolce - box front / box back.
★ Urie - box front / box back.
★ Raf - box front / box back.

Angel's Friends Merchandise

There is a ton of other merchandise available for this series, from duvet covers to notebooks to collectable figurines. Kinder Surprise did a set of six figures in 2010 too - check out for more details.

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Sunday, 19 April 2020

This Week: 19/04/2020

Punch your fears in the face.

I was searching Pexels for a quote to use this week and as soon as I saw the above I knew it was the one. I mean, it's current, what with the living nightmare that is a global pandemic, but it also cheered me up immensely by association. It made me think of a UFO book I once read in which the hands down greatest case study was Gary from Scotland who woke up to find Greys in his bedroom... and promptly punched one in the face. Classic.

This week has been so weird, again. I haven't blogged much because I just can't concentrate long enough on things. I've read a few books, watched a few films, played some mindless phone games like Disney Emoji Blitz and Word Journey... Then I've walked Molly, gone and sat on the wall in the front garden and guided Anthony through where to find the ebay stuff + packaging + stamps + so on, walked Molly again...

Regardless of the fact it was still Easter holidays I ordered a bunch more workbooks from The Works and I've been doing them everyday with Marianna. She needs stuff to engage her brain and most of her toys are at home.

(We're staying with my mum and dad / Rhys and Hannah for the duration. It's better to have more people around, though space is a major issue! Rhys is still in work - he does night shifts at Morrisons - but, obvs, he's sleeping and hanging out during the days and Hannah's working from home so, in the words of Madness, there's always something happening and it's usually quite loud.)

Yesterday I had her come up with 25 questions she wanted to know the answers to. I figure we can do workbook / the little tasks sent by her teacher in the morning, then in the afternoon we can watch some youtube vids and do a project on whatever the thing is. Today's question was: why do some beds have curtains on them? We learned lots about the history of beds, then designed our dream bed and bedding. Earlier in the week we did a volcano experiment and crystal growing - we learned lots but the experiments themselves were, well, less than impressive...

Deal of the Week -

Get 20% discount off your first order at Craft Stash with referral promo code: vg6o

On the blog I posted a pre-written World Dolphin Day piece and a Friday Five looking at miniaturist blogs. I expect I will back date some stuff when I have chance.

Song of the Week -

Lean On - Major Lazer & DJ Snake ft. MØ

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This Week - Weekly Overviews

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